Siyangena residents risk lives for power

Illegal electricity connections to a transformer in Philippi are dangerous to even passers-by.

We need electricity, legal or not. The fact of the matter is that we live here now.”

That was the bold statement by residents of Siyangena informal settlement in Philippi when Vukani visited the area after people complained about the lack of electricity.

Izinyoka (illegal electricity connections) is the only way the Siyangena residents get electricity.

The area has been in existence for two years now without proper services but with a communal tap and toilets.

The residents have connected a tangle of colourful wires straight from a transformer near Philippi Magistrate’s Court. The spider web decorates the skies leading to the informal settlement.

Residents claim to have asked their councillor and the municipality to supply them with electricity but say that has fallen on deaf ears.

However, the local councillor Mboniswa Chita said the settlement is illegal, therefore they cannot have what they want.

Mr Chita admitted that the court has complained about the illegal connection of these wires connected to the transformer near it. But residents said they have no other way of getting electricity.

Nontuthuzelo Holani said as long as no electricity is provided for them, they will have to connect illegally.

She added that electricity is not the only a problem but ablutions too.

She said men and women have to share toilets, which is dangerous for women and children. Pointing out a pile of illegal electrical wires high up between the shacks, she explained how each person knows which is their wire.

However, she said, she gets confused by hers. “We need electricity like anyone and everybody. We can not afford to use paraffin stoves and candles. If we are not getting services, we ought to improvise,” she said.

Asked about the danger the connections posed to the community and other people, she said one has to stay there to know the pain. “Is it nice living without electricity. Maybe you have never experienced that. Up until you experience it, you will never understand the pain we are in,” said Ms Holani.

But another resident living opposite the informal settlement differed with her.

The resident, who asked not to be named for fear of her safety, said the exposed wires pose a danger.

She described the situation as a ticking time bomb waiting to explode. “Imagine if the area can catch fire. This is a tragedy waiting to happen.

“This could affect us all. I understand their view and their challenge but we are in danger here. Every time I look at these wires my head spins. I feel their pain but I also imagine the danger they are in,” she said.

When Vukani visited the area last Friday, a number of live wires could be seen heading to the shacks.

Mr Chita said the court has complained to him that the connections are causing regular power cuts during working hours.

“I had a meeting with them together with Eskom but the problem was that they are illegal there. The City cannot provide such services when they are illegal,” he said.